The Senate on Wednesday called on the 21 border states in the country to allocate 1.5 percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) and 30 percent of Ecological Fund for the development of border communities in the country.
This is even as the upper chamber of the federal legislature urged the Federal Government to increase the Border Community Development Agency’s (BCDA’s) funding, while also mandating its Committee on States and Local Government to carry out a comprehensive investigation on the level of compliance with the Act establishing the agency.
These resolutions were reached after the consideration of a motion on “the need to pay attention to the plight of border communities in Nigeria” during plenary.
The sponsor of the motion, Senator Sadiq Suleiman Umar (APC, Kwara North) explained that when the BCDA was established, the agency had a detailed counterpart funding mechanism under the Border Communities Development Agency Act 2003 to ensure development of border communities.
According to him, the funding mechanisms included 7.5 percent of the total allocation due to the Federal Government deductible at source; 15 percent of monthly statutory allocation due to member states of the agency deductible at source; 55 percent of the monies due to members states of the agency from the Ecological Fund, and 10 percent of the monthly statutory allocation due to the border local governments deducted at source.
The lawmaker pointed out that the deductions made from these accounts at source even before the commencement of the commission had no significant impact on member states, the local governments and border communities.
Umar explained that this necessitated the subsequent amendment of Section 9 of the BCDA Act by the National Assembly in 2006 after a protest by Governors of Border States.
He said: “Border communities are in dire need of development in the area of infrastructure, health, education, water and access roads, but the BCDA has not been able to cater for the needs of these communities because of insufficient funding.”
He recalled that in 2009, about 84 school children were drowned in a river from Bukoro, a border community in Baruten Local Government in Kwara North, while going to school in neighbouring border community in Benin Republic.
The lawmaker noted further that “authorities from Benin Republic responded to that incidence and constructed a bridge across the river, but Nigeria did nothing in respect of same, resulting in Bukuro community threatening to secede from Nigeria.
Noting that neighbouring border communities of other countries such as Cameroon and Niger enjoy world class facilities, Umar lamented that indigenes of border communities in Nigeria were at the mercy of other countries for their medical and educational needs, a situation with attendant security risk to the country.
He, therefore, canvassed the Federal Government’s intervention in providing infrastructure and social amenities for the border communities so as to create a sense of belonging among residents.
While supporting the motion, another lawmaker, Senator Jibrin Isah Echocho (APC, Kogi East), emphasised the need for the Federal Government to create a separate intervention fund to address the problems of border communities in Nigeria.
He maintained that such alternative would create a better fiscal option to address permanently most of the sundry challenges facing residents of border communities.